Saturday, August 8, 2009

Proof of Evolution.

(phile photo.)

Language evolution, that is. The Associated Press proudly proclaims:

Obese Texas inmate hides a gun in his flabs of fat.

HOUSTON--An obese inmate in Texas has been charged after officials learned he had a gun hidden under flabs of his own flesh.

Twenty-five-year-old George Vera was charged with possession of a firearm in a correctional facility after he told a guard at the Harris County Jail about the unloaded 9mm pistol. The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday that Vera was originally arrested in charges of selling illegal copies of compact discs.

The 500-pound man was searched during his arrest and again at a city jail and the county jail, but officers never found the weapon in his rolls of skin. Vera admitted having the gun during a shower break at the county jail.

There are so many disturbing things here. First, and admittedly least, this is the first I've heard of the word "flab" being used as a thing rather than a substance. Ergo, I never imagined it was a word that could be pluralized. It's like saying "he repelled women with the cellulites of his thighs." It sounds like something on a (very unpopular) Chinese t-shirt.

But then there's the matter of the full-body search. Searches. Plural. I imagine Groucho Marx: "He's got stuff hidden in places you ain't even got places." Or visions of Mike Meyers as Fat Bastard in Austin Powers, finding the remnants of a long-lost sandwich. Nothing else says it as well: Eeeeewwwwwww. Now, don't get me wrong: those same upstanding jail workers performing a similar search on my rotund self would give me absolutely no opportunity for pride nor you for titillation. But I will go this far: one could not be hiding a freakin' firearm on my carcass without performing surgery. That's one for the Stackster.

And lastly, there's that harrowing vision of what is breezily called the "shower break," an unsettling alchemy of "prison break" and gay porn. Like a bad meal, all sorts of stuff just comes bubbling up unbidden at that. (Excuse me while I go to my happy place.)

That is all.


shrimplate said...

Thanks! Thanks a lot.

Seriously though, the sort of language we use use now differs quite a bit just from the language (American English, I mean) of my own childhood. Certainly a bit of coarseness is now much more common than was 40 years ago.

Your example is concrete in that it involves actual words. But the *tone* of language has also changed somewhat.

Also, grammar and spelling have devolved in many online usages. This was completely unacceptable just a few years ago. I hate it.

Of course I realize that when writing to someone like yourself the use of the word "tone" in this context could be confusing, because of your musical interests. But I think you know what I mean.

I like the way you employ a strong central image, that of an obese man hiding a gun, to run off with thoughts of language shifts. I think that's how writing should work.

wunelle said...

I love the fluidity of language, how alive it is.

I'm sure there are studies which attempt to make some qualitative assessment of the changes, and I guess that's a question I'd have: we're communicating differently, but are we doing so less effectively?

Lots of dire predictions can be found about the pitfalls of online and IM protocols vis-a-vis people's ability to express themselves properly (and I think I share many of these concerns), but, from the standpoint of language as a survival advantage, are we devolving? Or just finding a different way?

Malaise Inc said...

I like the imagery of a Chinese T-Shirt. This is one of my daily stops:

wunelle said...

I had seen; this is another one!

I was in Shanghai a month or so ago, and saw several similar shirts to these. I was surprised at how most printed t-shirts are in English, and there are often little grammatical errors on them. Do we suppose it's cosmopolitan to have bad English on the t-shirt rather than good Chinese?